ICAC UPDATE: Jodi McKay denies seeking Tinkler 'donation'

Jodi McKay
Jodi McKay

Former Newcastle Labor MP Jodi McKay has rejected suggestions from Nathan Tinkler's lawyer that she sought a donation from the then billionaire for her 2011 campaign, rather than him offering her a "bribe".

Harland Koops, for Mr Tinkler, put to Ms McKay on Friday at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that she asked for money from Mr Tinkler, in contrast to her earlier evidence that he offered during a meeting to use his employees as fronts to funnel cash into her campaign.

"I want to put it to you that you did so because you saw your political future at that particular point in time...as desperate," Mr Koops said.

"I don't sell myself Mr Koops," Ms McKay replied.

"I never have and I never will, so what you're proposing is completely wrong."

"I also don't pander to influential, powerful people."

"Thank you for the political speech Ms McKay," Mr Koops replied.

"You asked the question Mr Koops," Commissioner Megan Latham interjected.

Ms McKay also recounted a conversation she had with Treasurer Eric Roozendaal in February 2011 over delays to the announcement of a preferred proponent for a container terminal at the Mayfield steelworks site, after repeated attempts to obtain information about the hold-up.

She reiterated Mr Roozendaal went quiet and said in a low voice "haven't you spoken to Tinkler".

A Treasury document questioning aspects of the container terminal project was leaked to the Newcastle Herald the same day.

After learning of it, Ms McKay rang Mr Roozendaal and told him she would not support what he was doing.

"You were upset," Mr Roozendaal's barrister Philip Strickland SC said.

"Yes," Ms McKay replied.

"You were screaming at him," Mr Strickland continued.

"Yes," she said.

"You hung up the phone on him...you were in an emotional state at the time of the conversation," Mr Strickland said.

"I'm not sure I was emotional...I was angry," she said.

Ms McKay said she never spoke to Mr Roozendaal again and did not intend to.

The former Minister for the Hunter also recalled an election timed debate against her opposite number, Liberal Hunter spokesman and MLC Mike Gallacher at an event hosted by the Property Council.

She had challenged him about his knowledge of Buildev's coal loader proposal, suggesting "people in this room" were supporting the project.

She said Mr Gallachef had likened her during the debate to a piece of rotting meat in the fridge that needed to be thrown out.

However, Mr Gallacher's barrister, Arthur Moses SC, argued the comments were aimed at the Labor Party and government, and were reported as such in the media.

Ms McKay described feeling "incredibly isolated" in the lead up to the election and under siege from several "anti-Jodi campaigns".

The inquiry is continuing.

Andrew Cornwell blames 'dumb luck' for downfall

By MICHELLE HARRIS State Aug. 21, 2014, 11:03 p.m.

ANDREW Cornwell’s second appearance in two weeks before a corruption inquiry was more uncomfortable than the first, with the former Charlestown Liberal MP and his wife accused of concocting lies about $10,120 a developer paid for a painting.

The couple were grilled at the Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday over the differences between their explanation and Hilton Grugeon’s, pictured, over why he wrote the cheque that Mr Cornwell cashed and used to pay his tax.

The couple maintained it was a gift for the developer, but admitted  they had details wrong  about  the painting  – claiming it was a homestead  with a jacaranda tree.

Artist Rex Newell  told the inquiry, ‘‘I don’t think I’ve ever painted a jacaranda tree’’, confirming the painting was of a boat shed at Tea Gardens.

‘‘Don’t you see how absurd this story is becoming?’’ counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson SC put to Mr Cornwell yesterday.


FORMER Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell and his wife Samantha Brookes have denied giving evidence "laced with lies" to a corruption inquiry to hide their part in a "scam" to receive an illegal $10,120 donation from a developer for the 2011 election campaign.

The couple instead accused developer Hilton Grugeon of being the real liar, for telling a corruption inquiry he and Mr Cornwell had agreed he would pay for the painting as "patronage", to support Mr Cornwell after he wound back at his Cardiff vet practice to focus on campaigning.

They stuck by their earlier evidence given to the Independent Commission Against Corruption a fortnight ago and in private interviews that the painting had been a Christmas present - and it was only by "dumb luck" that it was the last remaining from a pile in their car boot when it came time to drop a gift off to Mr Grugeon.

"Why would he tell that lie?" counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson, SC, asked.

"Well, I think he's trying to deflect blame towards me, " Mr Cornwell replied.

". . . But on Mr Grugeon's account he's implicated himself in a scam, hasn't he?" Mr Watson said.

"Well, if Mr Grugeon says that he was part of that, well, look he was the instigator and I was the one who was foolish enough to fall for it," Mr Cornwell said.

Mr Cornwell was forced to resign from Parliament last week after telling the inquiry he used the money to pay his tax bill after assurances from his lawyer parents that it was legal to accept it, despite his belief the money was an attempt to "curry favour".

He also admitted accepting $10,000 cash in an envelope from developer and former lord mayor Jeff McCloy, which was spent on his campaign, but described it as a "huge mistake".

But there was one major error in their earlier evidence that the Cornwells would admit to - they'd got the painting wrong.

Ms Brookes told the inquiry a fortnight ago that the Rex Newell had been a gift from her father-in-law, Brien Cornwell, which was not to her and her husband's taste and prompted them to give it away.

She described the painting as a homestead setting with a jacaranda tree.

But it was evidence contradicted by the artist at the inquiry yesterday.

Rex Newell said Brien Cornwell had told him his son was standing for the seat of Charlestown and asked, "Have you got a painting at home that you could give us?"

He provided a painting, Perrin's Boat Shed, depicting a scene at Tea Gardens. The next day he had a phone call from a friend of Brien Cornwell, who told him, "Do you realise someone has paid $10,000 for that painting?"

Mr Newell said it was "a big surprise" because his paintings sold at auction for about $2000 to $3000.

"You should have been flattered," junior counsel assisting the inquiry Greg O'Mahoney said.

"I was a little puzzled," Mr Newell replied.

Mr O'Mahoney said ICAC had been told that Mr Newell was to be thanked for his contribution with a lunch at State Parliament.

But Mr Newell said, "There's nothing to tell, I haven't had that lunch yet."

Asked of Ms Brookes's description of the painting he said: "I don't think I've ever painted a jacaranda tree."

Mr Grugeon has since given the painting to a charity auction, with it fetching bids of more than $6000 on eBay.

Ms Brookes told the inquiry she and her husband, while discussing the ICAC investigation, must have become confused with other Rex Newell paintings that Mr Cornwell's parents owned.

She said it was "inconceivable" that Mr Newell could have been told the painting had fetched $10,000 the day after providing it to Brien Cornwell.

She suggested Mr Newell could be confused with a request from Brien Cornwell to provide a painting for a fund-raiser raffle in 2010, but, in the end, it was not required.

Mr Cornwell admitted he "barely" knew Mr Grugeon but he had ended up with the most expensive Christmas present from the pile given to friends.

"Don't you see how absurd this story is becoming?" Mr Watson said.

"Mr Watson, I know it seems absurd but it's the truth," Mr Cornwell replied.

Lying to ICAC carries a maximum jail term of five years.

The inquiry is continuing.

Cornwell denies giving evidence 'laced with lies'

By MICHELLE HARRIS Aug. 21, 2014, 1:45 p.m.

Andrew Cornwell

Andrew Cornwell

A FORMER Hunter Liberal MP and his wife have been accused of giving evidence "laced with lies" to a corruption inquiry to hide their part in a scheme to secure $10,000 from a developer for the 2011 state election campaign.

Andrew Cornwell, who resigned last week as Charlestown MP, and his wife, Samantha Brookes, both denied on Thursday lying to the ICAC in previous evidence that they gave a painting to prominent developer Hilton Grugeon and were "shocked" when he insisted on paying them $10,120 for the "Christmas gift", a move Mr Cornwell had described as an "attempt to curry favour".

Ms Brookes had told the inquiry the painting was of a homestead setting with a jacaranda tree.

But they told the inquiry on Thursday they got the painting wrong, confusing it with others in Mr Cornwell's parents' possession, agreeing it was in fact a picture of a boat shed by the same artist, Rex Newell.

They each in turn accused Mr Grugeon of lying in his evidence that he had bought the painting as a form of "patronage" because Mr Cornwell had ceased working at his Cardiff vet practice to focus on campaigning.

"He was the instigator and I was the one foolish enough to go along with it," Mr Cornwell said.

The inquiry heard from the artist, Mr Newell, on Thursday morning, who saud Mr Cornwell's father, Brien Cornwell, had told him his son was standing at the election and asked "have you got a painting at home that you could give us?".

He provided the boat shed painting, then got a phone call from a friend of Mr Cornwell senior the next day, who told him; "do you realise someone has paid $10,000 for that painting?".

Mr Newell said it was "a big surprise" as his paintings sold at auction had gone for about $2000 to $3000.

"You should have been flattered," junior counsel assisting the inquiry Greg O'Mahoney said.

"I was a little puzzled," Mr Newell replied.

Mr O'Mahoney said the ICAC had been told Mr Newell was to be thanked for his contribution with a lunch at State Parliament.

But Mr Newell said "there's nothing to tell, I haven't had that lunch yet". 

Asked of Ms Brookes' original description of the painting, Mr Newell said "I don't think I've ever painted a jacaranda tree".

But giving evidence, again, Ms Brookes said it was "inconceivable" Mr Newell could have been told so swiftly that the painting had been sold.

She suggested Mr Newell may have been asked by Mr Cornwell senior to contribute a painting to a raffle they held in 2010, but in the end the painting wasn't needed for that fundraiser.

Mr Cornwell told the inquiry his parents had many Rex Newell paintings and that the passage of time may have "contaminated" his memory of the work.

"I'm going to suggest to you that from the outset you were telling us fibs, lies..." Counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson SC said.

"...Absolutely not," Mr Cornwell said.

Mr Cornwell used the money from Mr Grugeon to pay his tax.

Lying to the ICAC is an offence that carries a maximum jail term of five years.

The inquiry is continuing.

Joe Tripodi 'organised and designed' Stop Jodi's Trucks brochure

By MICHELLE HARRIS Aug. 19, 2014, 1:32 p.m.

Joe Tripodi

Joe Tripodi

Labor powerbroker Joe Tripodi helped organise and "design" a brochure that smeared his party's sitting Newcastle MP only weeks before Jodi McKay narrowly lost her seat in the 2011 state election, his friend who printed the pamphlet has told the ICAC.

But Mr Tripodi didn't want the media to find out about his role in the treachery, telling his friend, Vince Fedele, to "keep me out of it" when the Wetherill Park-based printer was contacted by the press.

The brochures, titled 'Stop Jodi's Trucks', were allegedly funded by Nathan Tinkler and warned of 1000 trucks a day from a $600 million container terminal project that Ms McKay favoured over a coal terminal Mr Tinkler had proposed for the same former steelworks site at Mayfield.

Thousands of copies were distributed anonymously to homes in the Newcastle electorate, in breach of electoral rules.

Mr Fedele, of Mesh Media, said he had dealt with Ann Wills over the brochure, a consultant to Buildev who was described by Ms McKay as Mr Tripodi's "eyes and wars in Newcastle".

But "Joe was very much involved in the process", he said. 

Mr Fedele recalled the brochure was a rush job to meet a deadline, but said that was not unusual for election-related orders.

"I remember asking Joe about the legalities of it and he said it had to be out by a certain date," Mr Fedele said.

See your ad here

Mr Tripodi had been in his office while the brochure was being designed because Mr Tripodi was working on the election with Guy Zangari, MP for Fairfield.

Mr Fedele said either Ms Wills or Mr Tripodi had instructed him to send an invoice for about $8000 to "Darren", Buildev director Darren Williams, but he did not know who Mr Williams was.

The inquiry has heard Ms McKay long suspected Buildev, Ms Wills and Mr Tripodi were behind the brochure.

The inquiry is due to hear evidence from former Newcastle Port Corporation chief executive Gary Webb this afternoon.

Elite club gave ‘anti-Labor’ funding

By MICHELLE HARRIS Aug. 18, 2014, 10:30 p.m.

Neil Slater

Neil Slater

A GROUP of ‘‘influential’’ city businessmen who call themselves ‘‘Club 6.5’’ and a Nathan Tinkler company funded a Liberal Party-designed campaign run through the Newcastle Alliance urging residents to change their votes, a corruption inquiry has heard.

Details of the city’s networking cliques were aired  yesterday at the Independent Commission Against Corruption, with Club 6.5 described as a ‘‘junior’’ offshoot fashioned on the ‘‘legendary’’ Club 13 that started in  the early 1990s and was made up of some of the city’s wealthiest residents.

But for the 2011 state election, Club 6.5’s members did more than just enjoy their usual breakfast at the Newcastle Business Club once a month on a Tuesday morning.

Bank records tendered to the inquiry show ‘‘6.5’’ made two payments of $10,000 into the Newcastle Alliance’s accounts in March 2011 for the FedUp! campaign, within a few days of Mr Tinkler’s entity Serene Lodge depositing $50,000.

The ‘‘anti-Labor’’ campaign entailed extensive advertisements advocating for change, including an aeroplane banner flown over the city.

But at least two Alliance board members told the inquiry yesterday that the endorsement of the board was never sought by some of their own colleagues.

Instead, then Alliance boss and businessman Paul Murphy and members, hotelier Rolly de With and restaurateur Neil Slater, are alleged to have worked with Buildev and Tim Owen’s campaign team to secretly mount the advertising blitz on behalf of the Alliance, at a time when sitting Labor MP Jodi McKay was publicly critical of Mr Tinkler’s plans for a billion-dollar coal-loader at Mayfield.

Mr de With, also the Newcastle spokesman for the Australian Hotels Association, was further accused of discussing with Mr Owen’s campaign manager Hugh Thomson the interests of his industry that, as Mr Thomson wrote in an email to him, ‘‘Tim and I will take up with the relevant people and see what can be achieved’’.

 Tracy McKelligott

Tracy McKelligott

Giving evidence, PR businesswoman and then Alliance deputy chairwoman  Tracy McKelligott said the board had endorsed on March 3, 2011, running a separate ‘‘vote for real change’’ campaign with the aim of making Newcastle a marginal seat.

Her agency, Eclipse Media, placed the ads within the budget of $29,000.

She was ‘‘hurt, shocked and disappointed’’ when she later learnt, from a Newcastle Herald journalist, that the Alliance had declared spending $60,000 on a third-party campaign for the election.

The Election Funding Authority declaration lists the $29,000 for Ms McKelligott’s agency, and further advertising spending through two other firms.

She also knew nothing of $70,000 in donations listed in the Alliance’s 2011 financial report, lamenting: ‘‘I should have asked at the time, I should have looked more carefully.’’

The ‘‘donations’’ were the $20,000 from 6.5 and $50,000 from Mr Tinkler’s entity.

‘‘But was it ever raised at board level that there was $70,000?’’ junior counsel assisting the inquiry Greg O’Mahoney asked.

‘‘That we had $70,000 worth of donations, no,’’ Ms McKelligott replied.

‘‘That’s extraordinary isn’t it?’’ Mr O’Mahoney said.

‘‘Yeah, extraordinary, [I] agree, that none of us paid attention to that either,’’ Ms McKelligott said.

Asked of ‘‘6.5’’, Ms McKelligott said she didn’t know what it was but ‘‘by a process of deduction I worked out that that must be half of Club 13’’.

‘‘You say that as if it’s a household name?’’ Mr O’Mahoney said.

‘‘It is in Newcastle,’’ Ms McKelligott said.

The men would have coffee and discuss city issues but ‘‘what they did I don’t know because I’m not a male and I’m not part of Club 13’’, she said.

Mr Slater, owner of Scratchleys restaurant and a 25 per cent shareholder in a hotel, a member of 6.5, described it as a ‘‘looser’’ group than the Alliance, involving ‘‘about 20 guys’’ who were interested in what was happening in Newcastle; ‘‘a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker sort of [group] all from different backgrounds’’.

They were a younger version of Club 13, who ‘‘are pretty old now and I don’t think ... they’d meet [for] anything other than to have a beer and remember the good old days’’.

Of his and the club’s involvement with FedUp!, Mr Slater said he had attended a meeting at Mezzanine Media, the consultants working for Mr Owen’s campaign.

The company came up with the FedUp! idea but Mr Owen’s team decided not to run it on behalf of the Liberal Party.

Also in attendance were Mr de With, both a Club 6.5 and Alliance member, Mr Murphy, Mr Owen, Mr Thomson and Owen media coordinator Luke Grant.

After the meeting, most Club 6.5 members agreed to chip in $1250 each towards the cost of FedUp!.

He said he was unaware at the time of laws prohibiting donations from hoteliers and developers, and did not recall knowing that Buildev, part owned by Mr Tinkler, was also funding FedUp! at the time.

Rolly de With

Rolly de With

Mr de With, who was the treasurer of the Alliance told the inquiry he thought the other Alliance board knew of the organisation’s links to FedUp! but admitted no information was put to the board.

He denied Buildev had funded the campaign, despite being shown a text message Mr Thomson had sent him on March 11 advising ‘‘Darren’s just offered another 50k’’, referring to Buildev director Darren Williams.

‘‘Why is he sending you that message, Mr de With?’’ counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson SC asked.

‘‘I don’t know why he’d offered another 50,’’ Mr de With replied.

The inquiry was also shown Mr Thomson’s email to Mr de With, arranging a meeting to discuss the FedUp! concept.

It concluded: ‘‘As discussed if you have any position statement or something similar about what you would like to see achieved in your industry, Tim and I will take that up with the relevant people and see what can be achieved’’.

Mr de With told the inquiry said no such discussion occurred.

‘‘Well, see, I guess an ordinary reader would look at that and see that in return for you supporting Fed Up, you were going to get a favour from Mr  Owen. Do you see that?’’ Mr Watson said.

‘‘That’s not the case,’’ Mr de With replied.

Nick Dan

Nick Dan

Fellow Alliance board member and solicitor Nick Dan, who was absent from the March 3 board meeting, told the inquiry he knew nothing of the FedUp! arrangements.

Mr Dan also acknowledged he had acted as a solicitor for Ann Wills, who came to him in 2011 after the election to allegedly confess ‘‘Nick I’ve done something silly’’.

The former Labor staffer-turned-political strategist and Buildev consultant told Mr Dan she had been involved in the ‘‘Stop Jodi’s Trucks’’ anonymous pamphlets that targeted  Newcastle  MP Ms McKay shortly before the March poll over her support for a container terminal project that rivalled Mr Tinkler’s coal-loader plan.

Police had tracked down the pamphlets to ‘‘Joe Tripodi’s printer’’ and the pamphlets were paid for by Nathan Tinkler, she allegedly told him.

Mr Dan said he talked to Newcastle police because Ms Wills didn’t believe she’d breached electoral laws.

The inquiry is continuing.

Tinkler company 'funded FedUp! through Newcastle Alliance'

Aug. 18, 2014, 1:23 p.m.

Nathan Tinkler

Nathan Tinkler

The FedUp! election advertising campaign urging Novocastrians to change their vote was funded through the Newcastle Alliance by a Nathan Tinkler company and a group of influential city businessmen who call themselves "Club 6.5", a corruption inquiry has been told.

But two alliance members, PR businesswoman Tracy McKelligott and solicitor Nick Dan, told the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Monday that they were never told, through the board, that the Alliance was to be involved in the FedUp campaign.

Ms McKelligott said she only knew of the board having backed on March 3, 2011 spending about $30,000 on a separate "vote for real change" campaign in the lead up to the 2011 election, with advertisements booked by her agency.

She said she was "shocked" when later contacted by a Newcastle Herald journalist and told the Alliance had declared spending far more than the budgeted $30,000 as a third party election campaigner, with the extra cash spent on FedUp.

Documents tendered to the ICAC show the FedUp! campaign was initially created for Tim Owen's Liberal Party campaign, which knocked it back.

The ICAC was also shown the Alliance's balance sheet for 2011, which recorded $70,000 in received donations.

Ms McKelligott said the donations were never brought to the board's attention but "I should have asked at the time, I should have looked more carefully" and it was "extraordinary that none of us paid attention".

Its bank account records show it received $50,000 from Tinkler entity Serene Lodge and two payments if $10,000 each from "6.5". 

Ms McKelligott said she had no idea of Mr Tinkler's involvement or 6.5's until contacted by the ICAC.

She said she didn't know what 6.5 was but "by a process of deduction I worked out that that must be half of Club 13".

"It [sounds] like a household name," junior counsel assisting the inquiry Greg O'Mahoney said.

"It was in Newcastle," Ms McKelligott said.

She said Club 13 was a networking group of "very influential men back in the 1990s" who got together and "had coffee".

"What they did I don't know because I'm not male and not a member," Ms McKelligott said.

However, Scratchleys restaurant owner Neil Slater was able to shed light on 6.5, being a member of both the club and at the time the Alliance.

Club 6.5 was a "looser group" of about "20 guys" - a "junior" version of Club 13, who would meet at the Newcastle Business Club once a month on a Tuesday morning, he said.

They would discuss issues such as the removal of Newcastle's railway line and the city's revitalisation.

Rolky De With, the prominent hotelier and then Alliance treasurer, was also a member, Mr Slater said.

Mr Slater admitted he had been involved in discussions with Newcastle Liberal Party campaign manager Hugh Thomson, Mr Owen and others including Mr De With and Paul Murphy, then the head of the Alliance, about Club 6.5 funding the FedUp! campaign.

He said he didn't know at the time of laws prohibiting political donations from hoteliers and developers.

Mr De With told instead that he thought Alliance members all knew of its involvement with FedUp! even though the board was never asked to endorse it.

Mr Slater said a 2011 meeting with Fed Up's creators, Mezzanine Media, had also been attended by Ann Wills.

Mr Slater said he knew of Ms Wills as [former Labor Treasurer] "Michael Costa's secretary" and someone "who wanted to be part of the change in Newcastle" rather than about her work as a Buildev consultant at that time.

As well as giving evidence about his role with the Newcastle Alliance, Mr Dan told the inquiry he had acted as a solicitor for Ms Wills, who came to him in 2011 after the election to confess "Nick I've done something silly".

She told him she had been involved in the "Stop Jodi's Trucks" anonymous pamphlets that targeted sitting Newcastle Labor MP Jodi McKay shortly before the March poll.

Police had tracked down the pamphlets to "Joe Tripodi's printer" and the pamphlets were paid for by Nathan Tinkler, she'd said. 

Mr Dan said he talked to Newcastle police because Ms Wills didn't believe she'd breached electoral laws.

The inquiry is continuing.

NSW Labor leader's chief of staff stands down

By KATE MCCLYMONT Aug. 18, 2014, 10:55 a.m.

John Robertson

John Robertson

Labor’s hopes of winning back the seat of Newcastle could be damaged this week when the clandestine activities of Ian McNamara, chief of staff to Opposition Leader John Robertson, are examined at a corruption inquiry.

Documents obtained under the Government Information (Public Access) Act  reveal that Mr McNamara played a crucial role in helping then treasurer Eric Roozendaal and corrupt Labor MP Joe Tripodi destroy their colleague Jodi McKay’s chances of being re-elected in the seat of Newcastle, which was won by the now disgraced Tim Owen.

Mr Robertson, who had been resisting calls from within his party to stand Mr McNamara aside, on Sunday afternoon announced that his chief aide had decided of his own accord to temporarily vacate the position.

Nicknamed “Triprotoge” because of his closeness to Mr Tripodi, Mr McNamara has worked for the now disgraced powerbroker along with Mr Tripodi’s allies Eddie Obeid and Mr Roozendaal.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating damning allegations that Mr Roozendaal and Mr Tripodi undermined Ms McKay at the behest of controversial Newcastle coal mogul Nathan Tinkler.

Government Information (Public Access) Act documents reveal that on February 11, 2011, Mr McNamara emailed a Treasury official saying: “FYI – Attached is the press released as discussed, Cheers, Ian.”

The press release, purportedly written on behalf of Ms McKay, claimed that the Newcastle MP “welcomed” the government’s decision to postpone a container terminal in Mayfield.

This was not true. As Ms McKay told the ICAC in May, the container terminal, which would have provided much-needed employment, was the one bit of good news with which she was going to the election. But Mr Tinkler, who stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars by building a coal loader on the site, was determined to stop it.

Ms McKay sensationally told the commission that after rejecting Mr Tinkler’s effort to bribe her into supporting his coal terminal, she received a call from Mr Roozendaal, displeased with her rebuffing Mr Tinkler.

Ms McKay said later that same day a document from Mr Roozendaal’s department, which undermined the viability of the container terminal, was leaked to The Newcastle Herald.

One internal Treasury document obtained by Fairfax shows that Treasury officials had previously been concerned about Mr Roozendaal meeting with Mr Tinkler’s executives on October 6, 2010.

“Treasury understands Buildev [Tinkler’s development company] may raise with the Treasurer a proposal to develop a bulk coal terminal…Such a proposal would be inconsistent with existing policies and processes.”

Internal Buildev documents tendered at the ICAC show that one month after Mr Roozendaal met Tinkler executives Mr Tripodi was flown to Newcastle in Mr Tinkler's helicopter. The Buildev notes from late 2010 refer to the “need to brief Joe and Eric so they can take charge of the situation”.

Another mentions an “argument put forward” by “both Joe/Ian”.

“Well commissioner,’’ said counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson, SC, “Joe, of course, is Joe Tripodi but it’s the Ian that we’re presently interested in. Commissioner, we believe that Ian is Ian McNamara … he was and maybe still is very close to Joe Tripodi.”

Also to be examined by the ICAC is the role played by the Tinkler group and Mr Tripodi in the funding and distribution of 10,000 anonymous anti Jodi McKay pamphlets which were printed by Mr Tripodi’s friend Vince Fedele. Mr Tripodi is alleged to have instructed Mr Fedele to falsely claim Mr Tripodi had nothing to do with the pamphlets.

Mr Fedele and former Tripodi staffer Rocco Leonello are listed to give evidence on Tuesday. Treasury officials will give evidence later in the week.

Robyn Parker appears over "big man" speculation

By MICHELLE HARRIS Aug. 15, 2014, 11:30 a.m

Robyn Parker

Robyn Parker

AT least one Hunter Liberal MP looks to have escaped unscathed a turn in the witness seat at the Independent Commission Against Corruption's political donations inquiry.

Maitland MP Robyn Parker told the inquiry this morning she knew nothing about any money that former Newcastle MP Tim Owen and his campaign manager Hugh Thomson had speculated her campaign received as a share from $120,000 that a "big man", allegedly Nathan Tinkler, had pledged to Mr Owen's.

And CDs that Newcastle Lord Mayor and developer Jeff McCloy had told the inquiry he may have paid Ms Parker's husband for are likely a "family band" recording her son Dylan made after he was diagnosed with a tumour, the inquiry was told.

For one brief moment, it looked like another Hunter MP was in the doldrums when counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson SC revealed one prohibited donor, Bill Saddington, had given $600 to Ms Parker's campaign via a fundraiser auction.

But the money was swiftly refunded when Ms Parker's camp learned Mr Saddington had lodged a development application and could be deemed a property developer under electoral funding laws, as well as his better-known role as the owner of bulk hardware business Saddingtons, the inquiry heard.

Her campaign manager, Maitland City Cr Philip Penfold, reported the donation to the Liberal Party, Ms Parker, the former environment minister said.

The money had been given at a cocktail fundraiser event.

"Fairly soon after that event he [Mr Saddington] had submitted a development application for a subdivision so we refunded his donation for the auction prize and also his attendance at the cocktail party," Ms Parker said.

Ms Parker gave $17,000 to her own campaign. 

The inquiry was shown records of texts between Mr Owen and Mr Thomson discussing advice from former minister and senior Liberal Chris Hartcher to Mr Owen that $120,000 was to be split between his and two other seats.

Mr Owen suspected the money had been shared with "RP" and "AC", thought to be references to Ms Parker and former Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell.

Mr Thomson has given evidence he believed the money was coming from Mr Tinkler, and was arranged by former police minister and senior Hunter Liberal Mike Gallacher.

Mr Gallacher's legal team has suggested Mr Gallacher referred to former premier Barry O'Farrell as the "big man" and not Mr Tinkler, and that the $120,000 may be funding from the Liberal Party's head office for key seats.

In any case, Ms Parker said the money had nothing to do with her. 

Her campaign had already paid for its "key seats package", and it had been drummed into her that candidates were not to touch the money. 

But she said she believed Mr O'Farrell would have been too busy campaigning as opposition leader to get involved in the party's funding for Hunter seats.

Ms Parker was also asked about references Mr McCloy made during his evidence to a "nagging thing in the back of my head" about him having paid Ms Parker's husband for some CDs.

Ms Parker said she believed she knew what that was about.

"My son was very ill, he had a golf ball-sized tumour in his head and one of the things we did when he was sick was make up a list of things he wanted to do -essentially you'd call it a bucket list- before he died," Ms Parker said.

"One of those things was recording a CD with the family band." 

"Is your husband a muso of some kind?" Mr Watson asked.

"Well he'd like to be, he's a doctor," Ms Parker replied.

"They're all talented musicians.

"I have some CDs left if you want one?" she offered.

Ms Parker said her son, who had featured on the ABC's Australian Story, and his band perform at charity functions "so a number of people bought CDs and contributed to their endeavours and next production".

The inquiry is continuing.

No brown paper bags, but Mother Teresa, Hugh Grant and a posse of burghers were there

By JASON GORDON Aug. 14, 2014, 11 p.m.

THANK God Mother Teresa and Hugh Grant got a mention before the corruption inquiry yesterday. How else could we compensate for news the brown paper bag might not have existed?

An excited crowd stretched way beyond the doors to the Independent Commission Against Corruption yesterday  long before they were due to open. A recognisable crowd had travelled to the big smoke by train, presumably. Just followed the smell of blood.

Passionate Newcastle folk.

 Former Greens councillors Keith Parsons, Margaret Henry and John Sutton, rail campaigner Joan Dawson, current Greens councillor Therese Doyle, former Labor councillor Marilyn Eade and former Labor MP Sharon Grierson, and some guy who was later sighted yelling ‘‘die, die’’ as Jeff McCloy left  in a non-Bentley hire car.

They didn’t have to wait long. This was real-life Porpoise Spit, without the wedding but with colourful development identities continuing a script that gets better by the day.

Maitland-based developer Hilton Grugeon   was the opening act. Minutes earlier he was throwing around flyers in the  foyer showing that Rex Newell’s now-infamous artwork of Tea Gardens, with boat was up for grabs on eBay. No takers, though, with an opening price tag of five large. Mr Grugeon had trouble remembering anything for the first half hour, and struggled to separate alleged Liberal party bagman Hugh Thomson and former low-rating radio jock Luke Grant.

‘‘Or is it Hugh Grant, I can’t remember,’’ Mr Grugeon offered above muffled laughs from the predominantly grey public gallery.

‘‘It’s Luke Grant,’’ offered Geoffrey Watson SC.

A timely change of tone arrived conveniently enough to wake several blokes in the inquiry’s front row who clearly wanted more action.

‘‘That’s scurrilous,’’ Mr Grugeon boomed amid suggestions that his donations were designed to curry political favours for any of his 90 companies.

By contrast, the lord mayor of Newcastle declared he only had 33 companies, but only the guys in suits really cared about that stuff.

‘‘They all come to me for money,’’ Jeff McCloy declared when asked about how many politicians he had given money to. ‘‘I feel like a walking ATM at times.’’

Action! The real show had resumed, despite a disappointing plot twist.

‘‘The money came from a bank,’’ Cr McCloy offered in response to questions about the $10,000 in cash he admitted giving Andrew Cornwell. ‘‘So it would have been in an envelope.’’

An audible tear dropped to the ground in the adjacent media room as news of the absent brown paper bag was digested. But some hold onto hope the money was in a bag when it got handed from Mr Cornwell to a party representative.

 The news hounds perked up almost immediately when a new name fell from the lord mayor’s lips.

Would-be Swansea MP Garry Edwards had been having a shandy at the  Belmont 16-Footers and decided to pop around the corner to see if his keycard worked in the McCloy ATM.

‘‘I pulled out my wallet and gave him whatever was in it,’’ Cr McCloy offered the inquiry. It was ‘‘$1500 or something’’.

Within an hour or two of the testimony, Mr Edwards was treading  to the crossbenches around the corner in Macquarie Street, where it’s become decidedly warmer this week.

Mother Teresa made her appearance shortly after lunch. Mr Watson had become intrigued by a poem  being passed around during the break. Not a divine intervention for the embattled lord mayor, but some divine words from the heavenly mother he conceded had graced his desk for nigh on 30 years. It was responsible for much of his ‘‘can-do attitude’’, we learnt. ‘‘I only ever wanted a better Newcastle,’’ Mr McCloy told Mr Watson.

Newcastle was a city when Canberra was just a farm, he said. One had grown up and the other hadn’t. The difference was money and politics,  and he was trying to give the city both. ‘‘I wanted to do it anonymously but that little plan didn’t work out too well.’’  Mother Teresa might have warned him that it was never going to work from the front seat of a Bentley.









This  poem by Mother Teresa was passed around during the break at ICAC by Jeff McCloy. 

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered; 

Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motive;

Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, 

It was never between you and them anyway.

Hilton Grugeon contradicts Andrew Cornwell evidence on painting

By MICHELLE HARRIS Aug. 14, 2014, 12:30 p.m.

Hilton Grugeon

Hilton Grugeon

HILTON Grugeon says he and Andrew Cornwell had agreed he would buy a painting from the then Charlestown Liberal Party candidate to help support Mr Cornwell financially but has denied it was all a "fraud".

Giving evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the prominent Hunter developer denied the Rex Newell painting was a Christmas gift from Mr Cornwell and his wife – contradicting the couple’s evidence to the inquiry.

Instead Mr Grugeon said he had agreed to pay $10,120 for the art work as "patronage" or "mentoring" to help Mr Cornwell, who had stopped working at his Cardiff vet practice to campaign for the 2011 election.

But Mr Grugeon denied emphatically trying to buy favours from Mr Cornwell, including support for a $23 million Whitebridge development proposal from a company he part owns.

"I have never supported anyone for a favour," Mr Grugeon said, describing the suggestion as a "scurrilous accusation".

Mr Cornwell gave evidence last week, before resigning as MP, that he had been shocked when Mr Grugeon insisted on paying him for the painting, which only by chance had been gifted to Mr Grugeon as it was the last gift left in a pile of presents the Cornwells had handed out to friends in December 2010.

Mr Cornwell’s wife, Samantha Brookes, had described the painting as a traditional farmhouse setting including a jacaranda tree.

Mr Cornwell told the ICAC he used the money to pay his tax bill despite suspecting the money was an attempt to "curry favour".

But Mr Grugeon said on Thursday morning the purchase of painting, actually Tea Gardens boat shed, was agreed between him and Mr Cornwell although he couldn’t recall who first suggested the arrangement to him.

It could have been Mr Cornwell’s father, Brien Cornwell, he said.

He agreed with counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson SC that it would be "untrue" to describe the painting as a Christmas gift.

Mr Watson put to Mr Grugeon that the arrangement "was all a scam...so that you could plough $10,000 into Andrew Cornwell’s candidacy for Charlestown".

"Mr Grugeon, this was a fraud, a fraud in which you and Mr Andrew Cornwell agreed to a means so that you could disguise the fact that you were making an illegal contribution to his campaign in the seat of Charlestown- correct?" Mr Watson said.

"I don’t understand that it’s a fraud," Mr Grugeon replied.

Mr Grugeon acknowledged he stood to make millions of dollars from the Whitebridge development but that he believed Mr Cornwell, as MP, was supporting residents opposed to the project and didn’t have a problem with him doing so.

Earlier, the inquiry heard Mr Grugeon had denied during a private examination with the ICAC in July that he had not supported Tim Owen’s campaign for the seat of Newcastle and had paid $10,000 to radio host Luke Grant because he was down on his luck.

This morning he told the inquiry he paid the money for Mr Grant’s work on the Owen campaign because Mr Owen’s campaign manager Hugh Thomson had assured him it was legal.

Craig Baumann, Mike Gallacher implicated in Nathan Tinkler donation scheme

By MICHELLE HARRIS Aug. 13, 2014, noon

 Mike Gallacher

Mike Gallacher

TIM Owen’s campaign manager Hugh Thomson has told a corruption inquiry he understood the former police minister Mike Gallacher to have an arrangement with Nathan Tinkler that the then billionaire was to give $120,000 to the 2011 Liberal Party campaign for Newcastle.

Mr Thomson has also alleged Ports Stephens MP Craig Baumann ‘‘facilitated’’ an arrangement for Owen campaign team member Josh Hodges to be paid by Buildev for his wages.

Mr Tinkler was referred to as "the big fish", the "whale" and the "big man" because he was "both literally and metaphorically a big man", Mr Thomson told the Independent Commission Against Corruption in a lengthy statement of more than 70 pages.

And "as best I can recall" it was Mr Gallacher who had arranged for developers Jeff McCloy and Hilton Grugeon to pay the wages of radio host Luke Grant while he worked on the Owen campaign.

Giving evidence this morning, Mr Thomson said Mr Gallacher - the opposition’s Hunter and police spokesman before the election - had told him around the time Mr Owen was preselected as candidate in December 2010 that $120,000 had already been pledged to the campaign.

Mr Gallacher had the details of the donor, which led him to believe it was Mr Tinkler, Mr Thomson said.

Mr Gallacher had a "strong relationship" with Buildev, the Newcastle development company part-owned by Mr Tinkler, and had "knowledge of their commitment to our campaign", Mr Thomson said.

He rejected suggestions that text message references to the "big man" and $120,000 could be to former premier Barry O’Farrell in relation to Liberal Party head office funding for Newcastle, rather than to Mr Tinkler and his money.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Geoffrey Watson SC has previously described Mr Thomson, a lawyer and general counsel for the Daracon Group, as having admitted his role at the centre of "illegalities" involving political donations from property developers, in return for his statement not being used in a criminal prosecution.

He has admitted accepting cash from Mr McCloy for the campaign, the inquiry has heard.

Mr Gallacher was forced to quit as police minister earlier this year after Mr Watson alleged he and Buildev director Darren Williams had hatched a "corrupt scheme" for him to accept illegal donations.

The inquiry is continuing.